STORMY MEETING AT CENTRAL HILL – Lambeth accused of ‘divide and rule’ tactics by estate’s tenants and leaseholders
A MEETING of tenants and leaseholders on Central Hill estate called by Lambeth council to elect a steering group ended with no vote being taken.
Instead council officers found themselves facing a barrage of criticism from both leaseholders and tenants at the a lack of consultation over what people living on the estate fear could lead to its total demolition.
At the start officers said the meeting was to elect four tenant and four leaseholder representatives to what Lambeth council are calling the ‘Central Hill regeneration steering group’ saying that leaseholders and tenants have very different issues.
“You don’t know that do you? ” asked one lady. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a leaseholder or a tenant – we’re residents. “You shouldn’t be restricting votes so that tenants can only vote for tenants and leaseholders can only vote for leaseholders. “There’s no restriction on who we vote for.”
To cries of ‘You’re trying to separate us’ and ‘Divide and rule’ officers said they were ‘trying to be fair’ and to ‘keep it straightforward’.
One irate lady – Nicola Curtis – said: “This is ridiculous. “I can’t sit and listen to this rubbish any more. “You can stick the committee where the sun don’t shine” and walked out accompanied by about six other people.
Lucia Deere, estates regeneration team manager, Lambeth council, said “If you feel uncomfortable about this election process feel free to leave the meeting. “If there’s a majority who don’t want to elect members tonight and in this way please show your hands”
But Simon Elmer, from Architects for Social Housing (ASH), intervened, saying: “That’s not what the protest is about. “We don’t want to elect on a divided vote – we don’t want to vote on the conditions you’ve imposed on us.
“On every regeneration done by Lambeth and Southwark they started by dividing the leaseholders from the tenants. “Then they come out with a lot of promises to tenants that they will renew their tenancies. “They’re not going to do that with leaseholders.”
He warned the audience of around 100 people: “The only way you’re going to hold onto this estate is to stay together. “They (Lambeth) must not be allowed to divide you up between leaseholders and tenants. “That way they will defeat you.”
Challenged by Lucia Deere as to whether he lived on the estate Simon Elmer said he had been invited to the meeting by people on the estate. He said five other estates in Lambeth – Knights Walk on the Cotton Gardens estate, Lambeth; Cressingham Gardens at Brockwell Park; Westbury in Battersea; South Lambeth and the Fenwick estate at Clapham North – all had a September deadline.
Later he asked: “Why have you elected architects who represent the estate?”. To laughter, Lucia Deere replied: “I have no comment at this time.”
Simon Elmer responded: “Well I do” and quoted Lambeth council’s cabinet member for housing Cllr Matthew Bennett – who represents Gipsy Hill ward in which the Central Hill estate stands.
He said Cllr Bennett had been asked at a meeting at Knights Walk estate which Simon Elmer said was also up for demolition what he understood by the word regeneration he had replied “It’s building to a high density in order to address the housing crisis”
Simon Elmer told the meeting: “It means building – it doesn’t mean refurbishment, and doing repairs that should have been done for 20 years. “They are going to vote for demolition unless you do something about this.”
Lucia Deere responded: “You’re misleading this meeting” – to shouts from the floor of: “No, you are. “You are.”
He challenged officers: “If you are genuinely considering all options why haven’t you consulted with Architects for Social Housing?” Lucia Deere: “We’re working with our architects”
“So why haven’t you consulted if you’re considering all options? “They can provide you with other options to consider.” Lucia Deere: “We’d welcome your comments.”
Leaseholder Mark Freakes said the six to eight week gap between steering group meetings needed to be shorter.
“How are we going to make sure there’s ongoing dialogue? “We’re talking about a two or three year period of uncertainty. “The steering group need to be meeting regularly and putting out quality information.
“We don’t feel we’re getting honest answers. “Six to eight weeks isn’t good enough.”
Nicola Curtis – who had returned to the meeting – told officers: “The general consensus from the people on Central Hill is that you’re not engaging with us. “It will only come in once the decision has been made.”
Lucia Deere: “I’m sorry people don’t feel we’ve consulted well enough. “We’re going to set up a blog, we’re going to put information on…” (“A lot of people don’t have access to the Internet” said one person.) “…We’ve got the newsletters, we’ve got the steering group.”
Later, asked if the the estate was going to be knocked down, Lucia Deere said: “No, I’m not saying that. “We’re going to get housing on this estate. “We may not touch the buildings but we have sites on this estate. “We have said to you we are examining the options.
“Until we understand all the things that impact on this decision we’re not going to come out and say anything that’s going to mislead you
Housing projects officer Marcus Shukla said they would be increasing their presence on the estate. “As of next week we’ll be doing weekly surgeries.”
The meeting, which heard criticisms of repairs not being carried out for five or 10 years, also saw other exchanges.
These included who would chair the steering group with The Reverend Jonathan Croucher of Christ Church Gipsy Hill appearing to be the popular choice. Officer: “It’s not your decision.” Floor: “It’s not your decision either – it’s ours.”
Resident: “You should be publishing all your information – where is it?” Officer: “We’ve nothing to tell you at this point.”
Officer: “Are you recording?” – “It’s a public meeting.”Legally I’m allowed to record.”